by Ananya Vinay
Mind the costs of sojourning spirits
Dancing through thalassic abysses
Torn in twisting fractals, not solitary but two
Crooning pop songs and lush looping blossoms
Varying tinting rhythms run the day
Stained chalk black gray
Forgot to rob the aplomb to still shifting paint
Simply float through quotidian truths unthinking
Dismiss mixing worlds in a blink
Omit adjusting arrays of inking words
The words in my mind blur with a jagged push
No words for what I want to say
Only to find casual salutation and rapport about food
speaking homelands of masking anglicism
more often than I expect
A stumbling adagio with quirky strains
Odd musicality to obligatory translation
Ample to sling ruby laughs across vast water
I evoke strings that still cross our souls
For all flawed words partaken uniting us
Frayed wiring of family is parceled with distance
Till found family holds more ground than blood
shifting of time to vanish in a sigh
Left an image in stasis in unknown nooks
And shifts of startling shock
Time pulls down our intact acropolis
A ghost of a lost past , filling the air with attribution
Blue ink stained wrists from fading bangles
Time now filled with barren salons
But also visions of vibrant pasturage - no paths to dash roll in
Only to a vibrant pool- no polished lapis lazuli but aqua from virgin rain
sharp rocks stab skin like shards
an arrival to nature without manipulation
That is fading with journeys to and fro
A sanctuary of lost souls
Places of repose called on in an instant
in floating dust motes of thought
Without a slight glance
Doubling remnants of graying onomatopoeia
Flourishing in dividing multiverses
Merging at my wish in an ambiguous essence
Tap Tap Tap
by Cami Gomes
You always tap your fingers to your lips when you are thinking about something. They dance on your skin searching for an answer.
A soft, "mmmm," as you look around - your eyelids hanging lower, your brows tightened, and skin creasing over your nose.
"Are we going out for lunch?" tap tap tap.
I can see your stance already. Your weight shifted into one of your legs and your hair following the movement; you are almost as short as me when you stand like this. I can smell the product you use to keep your curls tighter and shiny: sweet and flowery.
I see your birthmark peek from under your long sleeve, it’s lighter color shining in the sun. Tap tap tap- rings swinging with your fingers. Your nails, as usual, are bold: fuchsia, red, coral, blue. Bold. You never came short of that.
You look up - the answers in your eyelashes, which have always been so effortlessly long. Your hip protrudes just a tad as you hum. Tap tap tap. Your skin is like caramel glowing in the sun - sweat in a race against us. I want to hurry you. It's hot outside and we don’t have time, but I would never rush you into anything, take your time.
"Yes," you say, straightening your pose, "does the Osteria work? I love their chicken." I nod back.
You hug me really tight and I am caught off of guard. You used to always hug me really tight, but now I can’t help but feel like I’m swimming in your embrace. What’s worse is that this “dive” isn’t graceful at all: my arms grow stiff, and though I used to love the pool, for a second or two, I forget how to swim in this ocean of yours.
I can hear you breathe harder, and right then I know you regretted everything you did. You hold me even tighter, and then you let me go. “Sunday at twelve?” You ask as you let go.
I watch you skip down the hall, like little kids skip in excitement. You do that often, and a part of me is glad that at least one of us gets to be happy. Your hand reaches out to your boyfriend, and I watch him smile at you.
I laugh, not at you but at myself. I can feel what I knew would happen starting all over again. I always fall for you. I wait for you every time you decide you have something better to do. I cancel plans just in case you call. You make me hurt, you even make me cry, but sometimes I can’t help, but feel like no one is better for me than you.
I love this, and sometimes it even feels like a crime: to still find love for someone who couldn’t care less about me anymore.
But what can I do? I like watching you tap your lips. Tap tap tap. I like it even when knowing you didn’t deserve a second chance.
You Are Home
by Maitri Kovuru
The captain's voice crackles through the loudspeaker, jolting me awake from my slumber. I wipe the drool from my chin, cheeks burning with embarrassment in the case that anyone had noticed, but am relieved to find that no one is paying me any mind. “We are now 5 minutes away from landing in our destination: Jacksonville, Florida, the sunshine state. The afternoon is warm, with the current temperature being 80 degrees Fahrenheit,” he booms cheerfully. I can just tell he’s a native to Florida, hearing the smile in his voice at being home at last. A grin spreads across my lips at the thought of this, for I too am home. Finally. After years and years of dreaming, I’m finally home.
And yet for me, home is a place I’ve never been before. Having lived in Arizona my whole life, I’ve never left the state; that is, until now.
The seatbelt sign stops glowing and a melodic ping resounds in the cabin, followed by the sound of hundreds of pairs of shuffling feet, hurrying to collect their bags from overhead compartments and exit the aircraft. I stretch up out of my seat, breathing in the sterile air of the cabin and letting out a large yawn. I lick my lips, needing water to wash down the leftover salt from the complimentary but infamously bad in-flight pretzels we had been given. Soon, a line forms and slowly begins to inch forward, eventually allowing me to ascend the ramp to the arrival gate.
Dragging my suitcase behind me, I stiffly hobble forward as quickly as the line of murmuring people in front of me will allow, the stark white LED lights of the tunnel glowing overhead. Over the heads of the children in front of me, I spy the end of the ramp, where your blonde head, hair matted by a backwards ballcap, peeks over the top of the crowd. You seem to rise on your tiptoes and I catch a glimpse of your clear blue eyes, though it’s unnecessary with your height, which already leaves you towering over everybody else.
I’m in a bubble. The rest of the world washes away into a blur of faceless bodies, squeaking luggage wheels, and hushed voices, you being my only focus. It’s only you and I, my fingers itching with anticipation, my heart accelerating wildly, and my legs turning into jelly at the thought of touching you. All the unspoken feelings, imagined moments, whispered desires race around my mind in a whirl of emotions.
All the nights where I laid alone in bed, reaching out my hand, praying to feel the warmth of yours closing around it and instead being met with the current of the cool air, empty for one more night, only having my imagination to console me.
All the years of feeling closer to you in a dream than in our messages and calls because at night my mind had a way of convincing me you were right next to me, caressing my burning skin with your long fingers.
All the aching in my chest, the pain of wanting to be held in your arms but instead holding myself.
All the burning tears that escaped because I knew you would never show up at my front door, no matter how many times I imagined waking up to see you standing there, rushing down the stairs and out the door right into your waiting arms, burying my head in your shoulder as you engulfed me in your embrace and whispered reassuring words into my ear.
All of it; all of the pain, yearning, and hopelessness was gone. You were right here. So close. So close I could see you, and not just as a figment of my imagination. So close I could touch you and feel the warmth of your skin as sparks from your fingers danced along my arms.
As I reach the end of the tunnel, I drop the backpack from my shoulder as if it were a boulder. I stare at you for a moment, as if trying to discern whether this too is a cruel dream. I’m rooted to the spot, and thankfully you seem to sense it, walking towards me with a sense of urgency and immediately clutching me in your embrace with desperation, fearful that I would dissolve into nothing the moment that you let go, leaving you with nothing but another wish, another made up memory, another invisible caress. It’s just as I imagined: warm, safe, comfortable. I sigh deeply, gripping you tightly, arms wrapped around your torso fiercely. Breathing deeply, I try to commit your scent, a mingling of fresh laundry detergent and earthy cologne, one that I’ll forever associate with home, to memory. Suddenly, I can feel myself letting out a shaky breath before gasping for air, needing relief from the sobs racking my body. Tears that I hadn’t even felt escaping suddenly stream down my face in hot rivers of relief. You stroke my hair and kiss the top of my head, just as you had said you would so many times, and pull away from the hug. Your cup my face in your large calloused hands, swiping the pad of your thumb over my cheek to wipe away the tears before stretching your lips into a soft smile of contentment.
You lean down- impossibly far down to account for my height- bringing your face closer and closer to mine until our lips are almost brushing. I can feel your hot breath on the tip of my nose, softly grazing it with every exhale and leaving it lonely with every inhale. You search my eyes for a moment, for any sign of protest-and find nothing but desperate yearning- before pressing your lips against mine. They move in sync, caught in a passionate dance as you pull my body closer to yours, our stomachs pressed so close together we can feel each other's heartbeats pulsing under the skin of our cloth-covered torsos.
After so many years of distance, it was the one thing we didn’t want anymore. And so I pull you impossibly closer, needing to feel every inch of your skin against mine, as if trying to make up for an eternity of distance in this one perfect, anticipated moment; the moment that I am finally home.
Home is a place I’ve never been before- until now. Home is in your arms.
by Iris Eisenman
High school romance is a joke. What adult would look at the average hormone-flooded, inexperienced teenager and think them a good candidate for the experience of earth-shattering, unconditional love? It would be foolish to construe teenage relationships as anything other than sport-like companionship. By this standard, I am the biggest fool of all.
Breaking up with my boyfriend was a rash act of self-preservation, an escape from our fundamentally flawed relationship. Had I waited ten minutes longer, I might have never broken things off. My friends congratulated me on choosing my own mental health over our love. I made the right decision. Exquisite heartache consumed me nonetheless.
Then I read Kitchen. Assigned for my English class, the novella revolved around Mikage, a grief-stricken young woman, and her journey to accept the pain of life after loss through the radical care of those still alive around her. I had begun to read Kitchen while he and I were still together, but the novella didn’t hit me until it was over. This unassuming tale of grief inexplicably became the deus ex machina to my spiraling emotional state. Mikage’s loss mirrored my own pain. Though I had never experienced a loved one dying, I grieved what my ex and I had with a fervor that felt undeserved and overdramatic. I felt foolish. It was only high school after all. I was almost ashamed to relate to the pain of Mikage’s grief.
Much like Mikage, I have fought the urge to care deeply about others. There is a sick comfort in solitude, after all. Nobody can hurt you when you are alone. But in the end, what was I to do with all the love I had for him? Though I told myself I never wanted to speak to him again, it was the last thing I wanted. I told my friends I hated him for hurting me and that I wished he would die, but when a soft crescent moon appeared in the sky out my window for the first time in weeks, he was the only one I wanted to text in that lonely witching hour. Have you seen the moon? Dozens of texts typed and never sent.
One day in class, my English teacher told us to close our eyes as she read the will of Mikage’s lost friend and mother figure, Eriko. Much like poetry, Yoshimoto’s words came to life when read out loud. Clarity washed over me as the will came to a close and the class was left in contemplative silence. Our relationship was over, but I was nowhere near done. I was guilty of loving him past what others might have seen as our expiration date. Lacking the gumption to erase him from my narrative, I instead erased myself. I averted my gaze as we passed in hallways, disappeared on social media, and made sure to not look through my phone’s gallery, pictures of him only a swipe away. To exist in a world where he did was my punishment for loving him so dearly. Oh, and how I loved him, every fiber of his being. Even my bouts of hatred towards his irritating habits were stained with reluctant affection.
Mikage contemplates the solitude she's so familiar with near the end of Kitchen. “As I walked along in the moonlight, I wished that I might spend the rest of my life traveling from place to place. If I had a family to go home to perhaps I might have felt adventurous, but as it was I would be horribly lonely. Still, it just might be the life for me. When you’re traveling, every night the air is clear and crisp, the mind serene. In any case, if nobody was waiting for me anywhere, yes, this serene life would be the thing. But I’m not free, I realized; I’ve been touched by Yuichi’s soul. How much easier it would be to stay away forever.” I, too, was not free. But thanks to Yoshimoto’s uncanny articulation of my thoughts, I chose to care. How much easier it would be to stay away forever. To remain here, with him in my life, was a most radical kind of care.
Kitchen makes one thing abundantly clear. Everything is always ending. The people you love will die, and the ones not dead yet will leave you. Despite all of this, there’s no other option but to continue caring.
I vowed to always text him when the moon appeared out my window. I could live without the promise of an answer, but the most important thing was the bravery to send the message. Have you seen the moon? Translation: I’m always thinking of you.
by Julian Heidelberg
The milk-light hangs above the ice-cream case, reflecting in the oozing caramel and the slick sorbets. 10:48 pm on the clock. Twelve minutes until closing. I’m wiping down the counter, carefully flicking away stray sprinkles and scrubbing at dried sugar. My blonde coworker walks by.
“I’m going to go check my phone.” She says casually, walking past my aching body and towards the back room. the lobby, empty of customers, echoes the squeaks of her sneakers on the tile. As I wipe the counters, I can see myself in a mirror situated so the customers can see their reflections across the register. I look wildly thin, my arms stretching out like spider-legs and my collarbones poking through the tightness of my skin. My black, short-sleeve button-down is tucked into a pair of bermuda shorts, which are stained with spilled chocolate near the hem. They’re hiked up around my thighs. I like wearing uniforms; no need to think about my outfit or the way people think about me; I’m dressed how my boss tells me to dress. Fake freckles dot the bridge of my nose and culminate near my purple eye-bags. I reach my hands up to stretch my paling skin back like how my parents taught me to stretch out balloons before blowing them up. There are dark, unfilled holes in my earlobes; no jewelry on the job. I glance at a framed picture in front of the mirror - the first year of the shop’s opening, smiling gleeful faces at an employee dinner. The faces I recognize - which are not many - have wrinkled since that night. Suddenly I crave my favorite flavor of ice cream - Strawberry Chunk. I take a small spoonful of it from the case and pop it into my mouth. Fresh, feminine, fruity flavors swirl around my tongue and into my gums like a mouthful of perfume.
A small, tinkling bell rings, signaling the entrance of a customer. I look at him through the mirror. He walks in confidently. His beer-belly hangs out of a stained tank-top, covering the buckle of a wrinkled belt. Cargo shorts cover his legs down to the knees, jangling coming from various pockets. His hairy, unshaven legs lead down to a pair of rubber sandals. In one hairy-knuckled hand, he holds a wallet. He meanders to the ice-cream case, where he paces for five minutes before asking, in a gravelly, cigarette-smoking husk,
“Can I try the butter pecan?” He says, pronouncing it pee-can. The flavor is almost exclusively asked for by men, a triple-scoop in a waffle cone while their dieting wives ask for a kid’s sized sorbet. I nod, grab a wooden sampling spoon, and bend over the case to spoon out a teaspoon. When I stand up to hand it to him, his eyes shift from my ass to my hand. He reaches over the divider and grabs it from me, without waiting for me to give it to him. He groans with fervor and licks the spoon dry before popping it between his lips like a toothpick.
“I’ll take it.” Without asking, I wrap a cone in a napkin and scoop a disgusting amount of the flavor into it. He takes it from me again.
“I like a girl who knows what a man wants.” He says, before chortling and licking it. “Just kidding. I know you’re a boy.” He follows, shooting me a one-sided smirk.
I gesture for him to follow me to the register, where he fiddles with his wallet before taking out a twenty and throwing it at me, so I have to stoop to the ground quietly to pick it up. He looks at my ass again. I open the register and give him his change. When I reach it out to him, lobster-clawed so I don’t drop the coins, he grabs my hand in his fist so that it’s entirely enveloped by his blobby fingers.
“Keep the change, babe.” He says, before taking a massive lick of his ice cream and waddling out the way he came.
thank you for reading issue six <3